Submit manuscript

Submitting a manuscript - how to make a strong impression on publishers

Winning the attention of a book publisher for your own manuscript is a real challenge. Editors have unsolicited manuscripts piling up on their desks. What should you look out for to stand a chance with a publisher?

What is a manuscript?

The term "manuscript" makes many people think of a handwritten document. "Manuscript" is derived from Latin (manu scriptum = written by hand). Library scholars understand it to mean texts and works that were handwritten. Famous historical manuscripts include the Ambras Heroes' Book, which contains medieval epics, and the Codex Manesse, the most famous German song manuscript of the Middle Ages.

In the broader and more frequently used sense, a manuscript is understood to be the transcription of a text for printing, which today is largely produced electronically. Certain specifications and criteria apply, such as the correct page format or the correctly placed page number. There are electronic templates that make formatting easier for authors. Whether you want to send your book to a publisher or publish it as a self-publisher: Take enough time to design your manuscript.

The manuscript in the publishing house

A certain standard font, 30 lines of 60 characters on each page, indented paragraphs, left-aligned text, no word separations - these can be the specifications if you want to send your book to a publisher, i.e. submit your manuscript. Popular publishers receive thousands of unsolicited manuscripts each year. Sifting through all of them is impossible for the editors in terms of time. Therefore, it can happen that a manuscript that is not formally adapted to the publisher's own specifications is put directly aside.

Rejection rate of manuscripts in book publishing houses

Source: Own surveys

It's not easy for an unknown author to land a contract with a traditional publisher right away - regardless of how good the book is. If it does work out, it can take a long time for the book to be published or you have to make big sacrifices in terms of layout, content and scope, depending on the publisher's editing guidelines and marketing ideas. If you want to be in control of the layout and the publishing date, perhaps Self-Publishing may be the way for you to go.

The manuscript in self-publishing

For self-publishing, there are no specific requirements for your manuscript. Preparing it according to the usual standards can be helpful if you commission an editor or proofreader before publication. As a self-publisher, you are responsible for the design of the print-ready book. You retain creative freedom in layout and design. cover and can publish without long waiting periods, which for authors of non-fiction and reference books with a high topical value or trend character can be enormously valuable.

Some service providers are geared towards enabling fast and uncomplicated publication and, for example, support with the book's typesetting . At tredition, you can upload your entire book text unformatted and format it with the help of automatic book typesetting. You can find out how this works in the helpful video tutorial . Alternatively, there are styles into which you can copy the text. Some writing programs also offer a function to create a manuscript from your text, formatted to standard pages, at the touch of a button. Some also assist with plot development, provide an overview of your characters, and are geared toward the needs of writers.

If you're self-publishing your book, don't forget that unlike submitting to a publisher, your final document is already the imprint must contain.

Before submitting: How do you format a manuscript?

Whether you're submitting your manuscript or self-publishing, knowing and implementing some manuscript standards can help you with writing and revising. Adequate font size, line spacing, margins, and appropriate fonts will make your text clearer and easier to read.

Font size: With a font size of at least 10 pt, your manuscript is comfortable to read.

Line spacing: Sufficient line spacing also makes the text clearer.

Font typesIdeally, you should not use exotic fonts when writing your manuscript. Instead, a font with serifs (little feet) such as Times New Roman or Garamond are suitable.

Difference between serif font and sans-serif font

Margins: To ensure that the text in the middle of the book is still easy to read, it should have a wider margin on the inside than on the outside.

Characters per page: Optimally, a manuscript has 1,600 to 1,700 characters per page.

Justification: For a pleasant readability and a tidy optical structure, justified typesetting is suitable for print-ready books.

Hyphenation: For even word spacing when using justification, don't forget to enable automatic hyphenation.

Font sizeat least 10 pt
fontSerif fonts (e.g. Garamond, Palatino, Georgia)
Marginswider inside than outside
Characters per page1,600 - 1,700
Text alignmentJustified text with hyphenation

Check your manuscript again for errors at the end. These can be missing or incorrectly placed page numbers or superfluous blank pages. In self-publishing, some service providers offer advice on such difficulties. tredition offers a professional services, such as editing and proofreading, as additional bookable options.

Attention: If you want your manuscript to be accepted by a publisher, pay attention to the publisher's own guidelines regarding formatting.

Submit a manuscript: What do I use to apply to a publisher?

Unlike self-publishing, you have to submit your manuscript to a publishing house. You can find out what documents the publisher requires on their website. There you should first find out whether your manuscript fits into the publisher's programme at all. As a rule, you do not send the publisher your complete manuscript, but a text sample and a synopsis. You should also not neglect the cover letter. Check the publisher's website to find out whether you should send your documents by post or by e-mail. Follow the publisher's own guidelines to ensure that the editor receives your submission.

What belongs in the cover letter?

Just like applying for a job, you should briefly explain in your cover letter why you are applying to this publisher with your book and what is special about your novel. Is it set in an unusual location or is it about an unusual main character? And why should the book be included in the publishing program? Information about you as an author can also find its place here. Have you already published a book or do you have literary successes to your name? Stick to the topic and only tell what makes you stand out as an author. For example, what makes your writing special and which writing schools or seminars you have attended to further your education. Do you also write full-time as an editor or copywriter? Then that is worth mentioning. In general, however, keep your cover letter as brief as possible.

Ideally, you'll direct it to the editor responsible for your genre or subject area. If you can't find the information on the website or publisher's preview, call. A cover letter addressed generally to "Dear Sir or Madam" does not make a good impression. In addition, by having a contact person, you avoid your manuscript spending an unnecessarily long time in the publishing house before it ends up on the right desk.

Note: Don't forget that your full contact details including address, email and phone number should be on the cover letter and preferably your name should also appear on each sheet so that the submission can always be attributed to you.

What belongs in the exposé?

The exposé gives an overview of the plot and characters of your manuscript. In two to three pages, you summarize the idea or main theme of your book, the genre in which it can be classified, and the target audience. Admittedly, not an easy task. But an important one. Imagine that the editor in charge has 30 submissions on his desk within a week and has to judge them all under time pressure. To do this, he needs the central information at a glance. That means: author's name or pseudonym, working title, target audience, genre, page count and a concise summary of three sentences should be at the beginning of the synopsis when you submit your manuscript. You should also briefly summarize the content, characters, and their development.

Define a target group as pointed as possible

With these key data, the editor can check whether your book fits the publisher. And please don't be too general. The target group "women" is not enough - are they young women or rather women from the second half of life? And what topics do they need to be interested in to fall into the book's target audience? The genre should also be clearly classifiable.

The summary, which should be no more than three sentences, also needs to fit. Regardless of whether you publish your book through a publisher or self-publish, you should be able to explain what it's about in a nutshell. This is important for your marketing It can also help with writing, so you don't lose sight of the common thread. To "practice", you can take one of your favorite books from the shelf and briefly summarize its content.

The exposé of your book can be about one standard page. Again, be precise, explain the beginning, main conflict, and resolution of the plot. Unlike the Blurb you have to tell the story to the end here. Otherwise the editor won't be able to judge your book. The main characters and their development over the course of a novel are formative for a book, so feel free to include that in your synopsis.

After sending in the manuscript - now it's time to wait

It can take several weeks before you receive a response to your application. How much time you actually have to allow for a response varies just as much as authors and their books vary. And even if a publishing contract is signed, it can take several months or a year or more before your book is published. Before publication, it goes through all the appropriate departments of the publishing house.It needs to be revised, edited, typeset, laid out and marketed. If you want to publish your book as soon as possible, you can consider choosing self-publishing after all. Both ways offer advantages and disadvantages, that you should consider.


Authors who want to submit their book to a traditional publisher should familiarize themselves thoroughly with the standards and specifications for manuscript preparation. It makes a good impression if the cover letter, synopsis and reading sample are professionally designed. The editor will decide in a few minutes whether or not to take a closer look at your submission. Therefore, he needs all the necessary information at a glance. Without a long selection process, you can publish your book in self-publishing. Here you have to consider the various self-publishing provider regarding conditions and assistance. Many also assist with book typesetting and formatting.


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